‘war cabinet’ women change the face of Canadian politics

In this dark and dangerous moment in world history, there are so many important decisions and statements pouring in daily from the Canadian government that it may seem foreign to observe that the three women who led our nation’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine so far have served as models of clarity. , confidence, and competence — and redefining political leadership in the country.

Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly, and Minister of National Defense Anita Anand have hurled boulders through what remains of the glass ceiling that persists in the executive branch of the Canadian government, despite Prime Minister Justin’s efforts. Trudeau to ensure — at least numerically — gender equality in his cabinet.

There has never been a time like this in Canadian history, with female federal ministers presiding over an important portfolio in what can only be described as an all-government emergency spanning international relations and the global economy, as well as Canada’s defense forces. and its major military alliances.

When Russian tanks hurtle into Ukraine, the world’s democracies are plunged into an epic new geopolitical struggle against authoritarianism that could last for years, if not decades. Trudeau, like fellow NATO leaders Joe Biden and Boris Johnson, has played his part in articulating the alliance’s anger at Russian President Vladimir Putin’s reckless actions, and, in addition to fueling the wider war, NATO’s determination to support Ukraine.

However, since the invasion began, the way Canada has operationalized its strategy to help isolate and punish Russia, support Ukraine’s heroic resistance with military and other supplies, and support the two million Ukrainians who fled Moscow’s invading forces, has been convincingly shaped and communicated. by Freeland, Joly, and Anand.

In Ottawa and on trips abroad, in interviews and daily press conferences, this trio of war cabinets have worked together, in line with our NATO allies, to explain Canada’s fragile position, both diplomatic and military, while also conveying — clearly, at times. sharply. — Canada’s unwavering commitment to Ukraine in its efforts to withstand Russia’s onslaught.

At the same time, the three ministers firmly drew a line that Canada could not contribute. They patiently and tactfully explained that direct military action to support Ukraine, such as helping establish a no-fly zone over a country at war, or placing Canadian army boots on the ground outside Latvia, remained unthinkable.

Freeland — a Ukrainian-Canadian polymath who speaks both Ukrainian and Russian — seems to have been born for now. He was minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade, and Intergovernmental Affairs of Canada, and also wrote an award-winning book in 2012, Plutocratwho investigated the wealth amassed by the Russian oligarchs.

Freeland describes the various economic levers that Canada, other democracies, and international financial institutions employ to inflict maximum damage on the Russian economy, and possibly thwart what he describes as Putin’s “barbaric invasion.”

He also wrote a famous book in 2000 about Russia’s evolution from communism to capitalism. No wonder he was a key player in building an unprecedented international consensus to freeze Russia’s $640 billion central bank reserves in response to the invasion.

Joly and Anand also emerge at this pivotal moment as true “staters” — a word that fits perfectly with these three impressive political figures, if not coined in an era where women could not imagine such a role.

Joly, who has been going back and forth between Europe and Canada during the crisis, was recently in Poland to personally oversee the shipment of Canadian military equipment and humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

Anand — a lawyer, University of Toronto professor and member of Canada’s first Hindu federal cabinet — headed to Europe again this week after traveling to Ukraine to meet top defense officials in the tense weeks leading up to the Russian invasion.

Anand rose to national prominence as Minister of Public Services and Procurement during the pandemic as his department managed to secure a large supply of vaccines, making Canada’s vaccination rate the highest in the world by mid-2021.

As Secretary of Defense since late October, he has been lauded for promptly and decisively addressing the long-simmering crisis of sexual harassment and abuse in the Canadian military. And during the invasion of Ukraine, Anand has provided regular updates on Canada’s military contributions, sometimes emphasizing his measured tone with heartfelt praise for the Ukrainian people and their desperate struggle to repel the Russian takeover by force.

Since Trudeau made history in 2015 by emphasizing gender equality in his first cabinet, the prime minister’s vaunted feminist beliefs have been questioned repeatedly by critics.

Trudeau of course stumbled into “broken trust” relationships with prominent female cabinet ministers Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott. He was more hurt when former MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes fled the Liberal caucus, later claiming that Trudeau told him “he can’t let two strong women of color go at the same time.”

But there are certain undeniable facts that make it clear that Trudeau’s Liberal government has made important new breakthroughs in this area.

So far, Freeland, Joly, and Anand have improved tremendously, and they are changing Canadian politics in the process.

Randy Boswell is a Carleton journalism professor and former Postmedia News national reporter.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are those of the authors themselves. They do not inherently or unequivocally reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of iPolitics.

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